The search for the wedding venue begins

Part of bride-to-be's venue guidelines: No ballrooms, unless it doesn't really look like ballroom.
Part of bride-to-be's venue guidelines: No ballrooms, unless it doesn't really look like ballroom. (Sarah Pastrana, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

And so the wedding planning process begins.

I told myself I'd wait until after the holidays to really start thinking about it. "I want to savor my engagement," I replied to anyone who asked about a date and location. And for a while, that worked. I decorated our tree without a wedding care, ignored dozens of bridal salons as I checked off every last person on my Christmas list and (what probably required the most will power) avoided the wedding section of Pinterest.

But when I talked with friends, it felt like I was in an echo chamber of anxiety.

"Venues book up so fast!"

"You better set a budget!"

"How many people do you plan on?"

"Where will the wedding be?"

All the questions stressed me out and turned this seemingly-manageable task into a gargantuan one.

I only know of one way to put my mind at ease when I get stressed (that doesn't involve a few shots of tequila, anyway), and that is to get to work. So I've been spending my free time recently doing some extensive online research on venues. The only thing I've learned so far? Sam and I are a lot pickier than we like to pretend.

On the wish list:

  • Somewhere with a nice ceremony space or in close proximity to the church I've been attending.
  • No ballrooms, unless it doesn't really look like ballroom.
  • Tents are OK, but we'd prefer the reception be indoors so weather isn't a factor. (Which I realize is a bit of a contradiction with the "no ballrooms" request.)
  • The place can't feel like a wedding factory.
  • Wanted: unexpected, modern or scenic spaces. Not wanted: Anything that feels cliche.
  • Reasonably priced. (Even if you've got the cash to spend, should you?)

It's a lot to navigate, especially considering many venues don't list prices on their website. And to make things even more tricky, there is a wide range of what comes included in the bottom line price. Linens? Chairs? Food? A wedding coordinator? A tent? One place I'm looking at requires you hire a parking attendant, while another spot includes everything but liquor in the base price.


My only piece of advice so far: learn to love Microsoft Excel.

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